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Black Academy
Original title: Academia negra
1987
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 200 x 300 cm
Reference: ACF0406
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In the early eighties, Juan Navarro Baldeweg took up painting again. He had begun twenty years earlier, but now he carried out a substantial, if not radical, transformation of his approach. The main trait that has defined him since then is his occupation of a territory that does not distinguish between figuration and abstraction. In his own words, in his painting there are always “recognisable signs”, “a swelling of forms in the most abstract backgrounds”. Navarro Baldeweg has systematically and inventively appropriated certain contributions from some of the leading personalities of both the historic tradition and the modern avant-garde, for example, Henri Matisse or Constantin Brancusi in the period before the Second World War, or Robert Motherwell in the half century after it. In the words of Kevin Power, “Navarro Baldeweg rereads Titian, Ingres or Matisse not only to discover what has not been said, but what can be said again in another way”. Nor has he ever disdained his intense relation with the Mediterranean world, nor the motifs, issues and subjects that have ruled his ideas and imagination. Cabeza, negro y plata is part of a set of ‘Figures’—that was the name he gave them himself at the retrospective put on by the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno between May and July 1999—which could include other earlier and later series: the ‘Smokers’ or the ‘Danaes’. The works in the ‘Figures’ series are distinguished from the ‘Smokers’ by the fact that here there is absolutely no representation of the energies or synergies of the protagonist of the picture—a general feature of his work, both sculpture and architecture—and from the ‘Danaes’ because they elude any reference to mythology or the history of painting. Nor are they “classical heads”, which abound in the works he did three or four years later, but they might be considered “masks” rather than heads strictly speaking. As Ángel González has said, relating them to the painter’s poetics, they are “masks of the invisible, since masks not only serve to hide us from others and make us invisible to their eyes, but also for the invisible to be seen. They seem to constitute the very boundary between the visible and the invisible, or are at least its most plausible, frequent and striking representation”.

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